I Saw the World End

Here’s a sweet podcast about Wagner’s Ring cycle. It’s a well-produced introduction to the plot, its incest and politics, its prefiguration of psychoanalysis, the concept of leitmotif, the unique demands of Ring staging, the legendary madness of Wagnerites, Bayreuth, and the fact that Mime is actually Wagner’s thinly-veiled caricature of a sniveling Jew. (So is Beckmesser.) We hear from a host of experts and non-experts, including Alex Ross, the best classical music journalist writing in English (who also selected the featured resources on UbuWeb this month), soprano Jane Eaglen, playwright Tony Kushner, who I once witnessed make the word ‘ossified’ sound natural (and who, here, is the first person I’ve ever heard defend the first act of Siegfried, usually cited as one of the low points of the cycle), and guitar-dork hero Gary Lewis!

If you didn’t know, Wagner is my musical God and the Ring is his masterpiece. It is simply the grandest work of art conceived by a human. (Call me pious, but I listen to Parsifal more often.) Alas, I am an imperfect Wagnerite. I have only seen one performance of a single Ring opera, but I do own: four complete Ring cycle recordings (Böhm, Barenboim and Krauss on CD; Solti on vinyl), two recordings of Parsifal (Knappertbusch on CD; Karajan on vinyl), Tristan and Isolde (Böhm); Die Meistersingers von Nuremberg (Karajan); Lohengrin (Kempe). I also have the complete scores to Tristan, Parsifal, and Lohengrin, and scholarly musings by Ernest Newman, Barry Millington, Stewart Spencer, Bryan Magee, Father M. Owen Lee, Baudelaire and George Bernard Shaw, the original Wagnerite.

My love for Wagner is the subject, as usual, of other, longer posts. This blog owes a lot to him. The graphic behind the title is a triptych of the infamous Tristan Chord. My subtitle (‘In Der Ferne, Bin Ich Heim’) is a line from Siegfried (‘In the distance, I am home’). I think my Wagnerphilia is an adult manifestation of a childhood obsession with Final Fantasy and other role-playing video games. Both share a mythological origin, epic length, a disparate cast of man and beast, and the full emotional spectrum of the human experience. When I was ten years old, this used to make me cry. It still does, actually. It’s a scene from Final Fantasy III. Celes (a seasoned military general) sacrifices her dignity and masquerades as a star soprano (very girly) to lure a villain out of hiding. I am positive that I will never convince a single person over the age of fourteen to seek out a title in the Final Fantasy series (if you are interested, check out III, Tactics, X, XII, VII, II, in that order), but I might convince some reader that Wagner can do for him or her what the Shins can’t (i.e., change your life).

Love and thanks to part-time parisienne, internet mega-crush, muse, and impossibly cool girl (two grades older) Maura Lynch for the heads-up on the podcast. Check out her up-and-coming New York band, The Darlings. They were in The New Yorker this week! Congrats, guys: den Ring sollen sie haben!

~ by ohkrapp on January 15, 2008.

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